Sunday, January 22, 2012

Hitch and Fry Are Wizards

This very well-known debate took place a couple of years ago, but I only got around to watching it today. If you've got 50 minutes to spare, it's well worth checking out. [Update: Apparently I watched the broadcast version of the debate which was edited for brevity. The full version is substantially longer.] Christopher Hitchens and Stephen Fry completely overwhelm their two opponents on the question of whether the Catholic Church is a force for good.

The first guy, Archbishop John Onaiyekan, says virtually nothing except that the church is big, well-organized and owns some AIDS-related charities. Hitchens rips into the church more in his first two minutes—rattling off the Crusades, child abuse, forced evangelism in South America, anti-Semitism and other horrors—than the opposition manages to defend in the entire debate.

The second church defender, Ann Widdecombe, does a little better than the first, but still whines about the focus on child rape scandals and discouragement of condoms without really addressing them. Fry attacks this attitude straight on when he says, "It's a bit like a burglar in court saying, 'You would bring up that burglary and that manslaughter. You never mention the fact I give my father a birthday present.'" He also makes an impassioned speech condemning the Church's own condemnation of homosexuality.

Another great moment from Fry is when he challenges Widdecombe on the Church's changing position on issues like slavery, saying: "And what is the point of the Catholic Church if it says, 'Oh, well we couldn't know better because nobody else did.' Then what are you for?"

The real highlight of the debate, though, was the result:

As a consequence of this debate, 774 minds were changed for the better. Naturally, it won't always be this easy—the two apologists were hopelessly inept, and it's often harder to convince people of religion's falsity than its negative impact—but even so, this should serve as an encouraging testament to the fact that debate really can make a difference.

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